Colombia – Medellin, Cartagena & Casa en el Agua

Medellin

We got a taxi from the bus station (Terminal de Sur) to our hostel called Selina in El Poblado. It only cost us 10k and should have only been 8k so make sure you don’t pay any more than that. Most travellers stay in El Poblado as it’s a little bit richer and safer than other parts of Medellin.

We had high hopes for Selina as it looked really cool online but were left quite disappointed. It’s huge and despite having a cool bar there is absolutely no atmosphere at all. We also paid to stay in a private room which honestly was the size of the bed, it had no aircon or a fan and faced the road so when you opened the window it was obnoxiously loud. Other private rooms seemed to have aircon so maybe we just got the short straw, but we were less than impressed, especially for the price. At least the guy at the cafe downstairs did do good iced coffee.

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That night we went out for a casual drink at El Social. El Poblado has so many nice places to eat and drink so if you just wander around the streets and an area called Parque Lleras, you’ll find something. We spent most of the evening just getting our bearings as it was a Tuesday and not too busy. We also got a taco from a taco stall called Criminal Taqueria they were pretty good and a great bit of drink munch!

We were woken up the next morning at 7am by the traffic and absolutely sweating. As we were up we decided we might as well get breakfast and had nice food, albeit very slow service (get used to it, you’re in South America) at a place near the hostel called Commo pez en el Agua. In the afternoon we got a taxi to Museo Casa de la Memoria (House of Memory Museum). It was free and had information on Medellin and it’s dark and violent past. A lot of it was in Spanish however, they had some bits in English but really try to learn some before you go! By the time we got back from the museum I was ravenous and we had lunch at a place called Bastardo, it was pretty good! That evening we found a bar called 37 Park which actually ended up being one of our favourite places.  It has the cutest outside area, decent drinks and good nibbles. The pisco sour was decent and the barrata delicious!

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The next day we had booked an early free walking tour so just grabbed a coffee and pastry from the hostel and headed to the metro. I would recommend going on one of these tours, it was super interesting and showed you around the city centre! We booked ours through ‘Real City Tours’ – they have a number of free tours on their website, you just need to book a day in advance.

The metro system in Medellin is super easy to operate. You say how many trips you would like on your card and they load it up for you. The people are very proud of the metro and therefore it’s very clean and very nice way to move around the city.

While you’re in Colombia you have to try and Empanada. I personally like the ‘carne’ (meat) ones with a bit of hot sauce! That’s what we got for lunch this day during the tour.

Once the tour ended, we got back on the metro and headed for a cable car. Medellin has four different cable cars that take you up the mountains at the edge of the city where the majority of the slums are. We went on the ‘West’ one because it runs very close to the houses and the slums and gives you great views of them. The other one recommended to us was the one in the ‘North’. I think you can get off that one and walk around some form of park.

For dinner that night we headed to Marcado el Rio which is basically a huge hall filled with different restaurants and bars. We stupidly walked there from the hostel and found ourselves down some street that was a little bit too dark and too empty – I would advise a taxi! The food there is great though and with so many options everyone will be happy.

After dinner, we headed back to El Poblado and tried out a number of different bars. Finally, we ended up in La Octava which is a bar with an outside courtyard in the back and a ball pit! We stayed there for quite a while, it’s full of travellers and we really enjoyed it.

We were so glad that our final night in Medellin was a Friday! We had heard it’s a mental night out during the weekends, so we made sure we weren’t hungover for it. We went to D’Andre Gourmet for breakfast, we had wanted to go to Burdo on recommendation from friends but it doesn’t open till 12pm on a Friday and we were starving. We had a pretty chilled day – had a long breakfast, did some washing, had a couple iced coffees, read our books etc.

We went to Gusto for dinner and it wasn’t great, there are so many places in the area I would advise just doing some research! After that, we went back to 37 Park for a giant margarita with 2 coronas in it and then headed to La Octava where we met a lovely group of Dutch girls and an Irish guy. Finally, we went to a very Colombian bar called Buena Vista. It had salsa music and dancing and was the perfect way to end our time in Medellin!

The next morning, I died. The journey to Cartagena felt like it lasted years. That taxi was the longest and most horrible drive of my life. It was only an hour but it was winding and uphill. By some miracle I made we made it to the airport intact and managed to board our flight to Cartagena.

Cartagena

The first thing we noticed when we landed was the heat. Jesus Christ. It was at least 10 degrees hotter than Medellin (which is described as the enteral spring). Preempting the fact we’d be hungover we had booked ourselves into a fancy hotel called Estelar in the almost Miami-looking part of – Bocagrande). The hotel was so nice and the room not only big but cool, the AC was amazing with a big, comfy bed. It was exactly what we needed. We were starving by the time we landed, so went to the hotel restaurant – Lewis’s pasta was alright, my pizza was not. It was SO disappointing but by this point, I really didn’t care! That night we both had the best and longest sleep we’d had since leaving the UK.

We woke up feeling refreshed and the amazing buffet breakfast was all I could think about.  Wanting to make the most of our only day in this hotel, we spent most of it lying by the pool although we did venture out for lunch and had some really good seafood at a local restaurant. That evening we walked into the walled city and went for dinner at a lovely restaurant called Montesacro Resto. We even shared a bottle of white wine! It was a bit expensive but after so many failed meals in the past couple of days, we thought we deserved it. We explored the city a little bit after dinner and then headed back for bed, the next day would be an early start!

Casa en el Agua

Our alarms went off at 6:45am, we left our bags at the hotel and walked to the harbour. Today was one of the only things we had actually planned for our trip! Casa en el Agua. It’s a hut out the in middle of the Caribbean sea where you can swim, kayak, do little trips, eat the freshest seafood (we saw them taking the live crab and lobster to the kitchen) and drink! You have to book in advance as it gets full really quickly, you can book two months in advance.

Our boat was at 9am but you have to get there early to check-in, pay entrance to the park and get your return ticket. By the time we’d got to the harbour I was already melting. It was only 32 degrees but the humidity combined with the lack of wind had it feeling like 40. There was hardly any shade as you moved from queue to queue and I was absolutely dripping. I can honestly say I have never felt that hot or sweaty in my entire life! Eventually, we got on the boat and typical, I’m sat in a seat with my arm in direct sunlight. Thankfully, Lewis swapped seats with me after 20 mins but my arm and shoulder were already burnt.

The boat to Casa en el Agua was 2 hours long and we were greeted with the staff and guests doing a choreographed dance to ‘Welcome to my house’. It was equal parts cheesy and endearing.

Once we’d checked in and got sorted we got our first beer. It wasn’t even 12pm yet and that kind of set the tone for the day! We drank and swam, did some snorkelling and played games with other people in the hostel.

We even had a Casa en el Agua Olympics – you had to be in teams of four and one person in each team had to do one activity. I had to swim around the house with a life jacket on, Lewis had to a trick dive, Caroline (Irish girl we met) had to do a belly flop and her friend Megan (Scottish) had to dive for a weight that had been thrown into the sea. We ended up coming second which I was pretty impressed with, although Lewis did win us the majority of our points, including the paddleboard tiebreaker.

That night I had the most amazing mixed ceviche, we all played drinking games and had a bit of a party. By 11pm I was dead and crawled up to our room which was BOILING. It was quite windy outside so when a gust came through our window it helped a lot but at 2am the wind completely stopped. I woke up with beads of sweat running down every inch of my body – not the best sleep I’ve ever had in my life.

Cartagena

In the morning and feeling a little rough we boarded the boat back to Cartagena. Just as we expected, when we arrived it was roasting. The breakfast wasn’t very substantial on the Casa so we walked straight to the Burger King near our hotel – the thought of a fat burger and an AC room was the only thing keeping me going on the 25min walk in the raging mid-day heat. As bad as it sounds, that was probably one of the best meals we had! We were so hungry, the burger was so tasty and the chips so salty. After we’d be sufficiently fed we grabbed our bags from Estelar and got a taxi to our hostel, Makako Chill Out Hostel in the walled city. It wasn’t nicest looking hostel but it’s run by this lovely young couple and the atmosphere was great. In general, when in Cartagena you want to stay in the walled city. It’s beautiful and soaked in history, there are loads of great hostels and definitely something for everyone.

That night we went on a party bus called the Chiva bus which although super sweaty, was great fun. You drive around town for a while with a band in the back seats drinking beer and rum. Then we stopped at a local park to try some food, had a fab hot dog although the hot sauces combined with the heat and humidity meant I was a river personified. Lewis wiped the sweat off my back, turned around to put the tissues in the bin and it was back again. I actually had to buy a fan just to survive the night! We went to two clubs, our favourite was Eivissa because it played music other than reggaeton and it had proper AC.

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The following morning, we went to a great place called Stepping Stone for breakfast. It’s run by some Australians and has your typical smashed avo and iced coffee but is also aimed at helping employ disadvantaged young people in the city. Definitely worth a visit! We spent the rest of the day wandering around the city with periodic rests in the AC. It really is so hot and being Scottish, my body couldn’t cope.

We chilled in the shade of the hostel in the afternoon and read our books. That evening we went to watch the sunset at Cafe del Mar (get there early to get a seat) and then for dinner, we finally found a good pizza! After that terrible one in Estelar, I’d been craving one for days. It was at a placed called La Diva Pizzeria and was the best pizza we’d had in Colombia. That night we did the salsa class in the hostel and had a few beers. We only had a chilled one as we were heading to Santa Marta the next day.

India – Mumbai and Goa

Mumbai

It was really nice to have a lie in for once! We went out for a dosa breakfast, bit embarrassing that we hadn’t had one yet but we really enjoyed them.

We then did a walk around all the cultural and heritage sites in Colaba; Gateway of India – where the last Brits left from when India became independent, the Maharashtra police HQ, Asiatic Library, CST Train Station, Bombay High Court, Rajabai Clock Tower and the Cathedral of the Holy Name. If I’m completely honest, only the gateway and maybe the train station are worth seeing. All the buildings look very British which isn’t surprising I guess!

It did feel nice to be in a city again though. We even had a Starbucks! I know, I know, basic bitch, right? But after 2 hours of walking, I had earned my frappuccino. I was also getting hangry with the lack of sugar so, really, getting me one was the right call for everyone. We chilled in the hostel for the afternoon and then went out for some dinner – I actually put on a dress and make-up for the first time in 2 weeks!

We went to a place called the Goose and Gridiron. It was a nice enough place with an astroturfed outside area and some fairy lights. We had our first (and only) Bombay Sapphire in Bombay – not that there is actually any relation.

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Bombay in Bombay

The next morning we got up early to check out and go on a slum tour. We had a great breakfast at a cafe called Theobroma – my first mocha in India. We got an Uber to the train station where we were supposed to meet our tour guide. We waited and waited but the guy was a no-show. When we eventually got through to the hostel (after an hour of waiting) they said that there was heavy rain to the guy wasn’t going to make it… well thanks for letting us know! I was a bit gutted because I really wanted to go but never-mind.

Instead, we headed over to Dhobi Ghats – the largest place in the world for washing clothes. They hold the Guinness record for most amount of people washing clothes at one time. It was pretty impressive to see, not particularly a place I’d like to get my clothes washed or work in, however. What’s concerning is that this is where all the hospitals and hotels get their linen washed! There was a sort of ‘section’ for all the ‘waste’ that comes out of the hospitals but these guys were scrubbing the clothes with intense chemicals with bare hands – I can only imagine what it must be doing to their skin.

After that, we went to Marine Drive to walk along the beach. It was a disgusting beach. It was full of rubbish and the walk was hot and sweaty. Our long walk was rewarded with a Baskin and Robbins ice cream at the end which took me straight back to my childhood.

That evening we got the overnight train to Goa. The train actually left on time and although it arrived a little late, it was really no bother at all and I quite enjoyed it – I slept most of the way anyway!

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Goa – Agonda

We got a taxi from the train to station our hotel in Agonda (about an hour south or Margoa). Our hotel, Cinnamon, consisted of about 20 beach huts and a nearly-there restaurant. It was rustic but cute, the only real downside was that there were SO many mosquitos! Luckily the bed had a mosquito net. Agonda is really quiet most of the time and was in all honesty, completely dead when we were there (who comes to the beach during monsoon season anyways!?)

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We still managed made the best of it though. We had a small terrace outside our hut so bought some beers, played cards and read our books. We ended up just eating in the hostel as it was chucking it down and no other restaurants were open!

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I woke up starving the next day and luckily the hotel had a free breakfast of eggs, toast, and coffee which did me perfectly. We chilled for a while by our hut as it rain but then Lewis started to get antsy so we hired a bike and drove to the nearest town with any life at all – Palolem.

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We managed to just miss the rain the whole ride! When we did arrive (about a 20 min drive) things were actually open! A huge improvement from the boarded-up shops and tarp-covered beach huts that littered Agonda.

We stopped into a cafe called the Bombay Duck for a spot of lunch and a beer (well I had a beer because Lewis was driving). Lewis wasn’t feeling great so we went back to the hotel and he slept for a bit while I read my book. Later in the evening, we drove back to Palolem for dinner. We went to a beachfront restaurant called Dropadi. We had a really nice meal apart from I ordered a curry that was way too hot for me! That’s what I get for being cocky.

On our drive home we encountered a few problems:

  1. Our bike lights didn’t work, which meant I was holding a torch over Lewis’s shoulder off into the vast blackness which constitutes the Goan countryside
  2. We ran out of petrol about halfway home

Okay, it might have been slightly my fault. Lewis did ask if we should get petrol before we left (our petrol gauge didn’t work) and I said no, we’ll be fine! And you know what, we were fine in the end… We only had to push the bike for 5 minutes before someone stopped to help.

Goa – Varca

YAY! The time had finally come that we were going to a real hotel. We woke up and had a quick breakfast before getting a taxi straight to Caravela Beach Resort in Varca, about an hour north of Agonda. I couldn’t even contain my excitement when we arrived – there was actually a driveway, bel boys, welcome drinks – I was ecstatic.

Once we’d checked in (and we’d been upgraded!), by some miracle the sun was actually shining. We headed straight to the pool. Of course, I needed a margarita as soon as we arrived and the one from the pool-bar wasn’t half bad. We spent the rest of the day working on our tans until we realized that I was actually so burnt already. Why am I so white?

We went back to the room so that I could get out of the sun and to get ready for dinner. The only downer was that Lewis wasn’t feeling well so wasn’t up for much of a drink but despite this, we had a really lovely evening.

The next morning we went for breakfast and it was phenomenal! Like a real hotel buffet breakfast with an eggs station, a pancake and waffle station, obviously every pastry you could think of and decent coffee – I was in my element. As you might have guessed, all we did in Caravela was eat, drink and tan and that suited me just fine.

Goa to Delhi

The day started off well. We chilled in the room after breakfast until check out. Then tanned by the pool, had some lunch and got our taxi to the airport. The airport and flight itself went off without a hitch things only started to go downhill when we got to Delhi (surprise, surprise).

First of all, it’s 11pm, we are tired and crabby and just wanted to sleep before our flight home tomorrow. Two different Ubers canceled on us, so we decided to get a tuk-tuk, then this guy couldn’t find our hotel and tried to get more money out of us ‘for the long journey’, no thank you.

THEN we go to check in and our booking had been canceled and now the hotel was fully booked. Um, excuse me!? We hadn’t been told by the hotel or booking.com that it had been canceled, they claimed it was because we arrived after 8pm – absolute rubbish, their site even claims 24hour reception! Anyways, I may have lost my head a bit at this, Lewis remained calm but he’s a slow burner, so by the time we found another hotel, checked in and made it to the room he was fuming but I was calm again. The hotel we checked into was grosser than the one we booked but it had a bed, provided breakfast and was near the airport so I was happy.

Delhi to Edinburgh

The day had finally come, we were going home! Luckily we both woke up in better moods than the night before! The hotel breakfast was actually decent and getting to the airport was easy. The flight home was long but as expected and it felt good to walk out into the crisp air once we’d got to Edinburgh airport.

India was a fantastic experience and I’m so glad I did it with Lewis. I had a great time (despite everything!) and I can’t really believe how much we saw and experienced in just under a month. Looking back, we really did enjoy our time there and it is definitely a once in a lifetime experience, probably because we now know what India stands for: I’m Never Doing It Again.

If you’re planning on going to India and want any tips or suggestions please get in touch!

This is going to be the last blog post for a while as I’ve now started my masters and unfortunately can’t just swan around the world anymore on a permanent holiday – so this is Backbackbradie singing out! (For now).

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India – Bundi, Udaipur, Jodhpur & Jaisalmer

Bundi

We arrived in the small, religious town of Bundi in the afternoon, checked into our Guest House (Hotel Bundi House) and went out to explore. Bundi is a really tiny town, it has a lake, a fort (surprise surprise) and a palace. It’s very quiet but not as nice as Pushkar.

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We hiked up to the palace which was pretty cool considering it was up a hill and build in the 1600s. All thanks to elephants I believe. The hike to the palace was bad enough, the hike up the fort was a whole-new kettle of fish.

Garh Palace and the Elephant Gate

It was SO hot. Hottest I’d been so far and the hill with its crumbling, barely-there path was steep. I haven’t done any exercise since Sydney and that combined with the fact I hadn’t really eaten in the past 4 days meant that I was one sweaty and unhappy chicken. I huffed and puffed all the way up there while making angry comments at Lewis because he was the one that wanted to go see it. It’s another fort! Not even a nice one! It was just a decaying old building. The view from the top was alright but not worth the pain.

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View from the fort

When we finally got back down we (well Lewis) had dinner overlooking the lake – I still have no appetite at all. Once again we went to Trip Advisor’s number 1 restaurant which consisted of some plastic furniture on a piece of concrete next to the lake. Saying that, Lewis said his curry was tasty so at least it wasn’t a complete waste of time! The plan was to spend the rest of the evening in the comfort of our AC room (India was starting to get to me already) but Lewis forced me out of the room up to the guest house’s rooftop.

To give credit where credit is due, it was pretty nice up there. I managed to eat some dinner and we played cards and got speaking to a lovely Spanish couple. Just as we were getting ready for bed, the guy running the hotel came and knocked on our door. It was his birthday and he wanted everyone in the hotel to be there while he cut his cake  – the whole thing was pretty cute.

Bundi to Udaipur

Okay, so this was the day from hell. I kind of blame myself because out of the two of us, I’m definitely the more assertive side of the relationship and I shouldn’t have fallen asleep and I should have left Lewis to sort it out but I did and that’s why a 3-hour journey turned into a 12 HOUR ONE.

Manjeet took us to Jaipur, not Udaipur, which is 4 hours in the wrong direction. I kind of slept the whole way to Jaipur – guess I still wasn’t 100%. When we got there I asked Manjeet why we were in Jaipur and he didn’t really have an answer.

Long story short, he had messed up big time and when Lewis had told him he was going the wrong may he just didn’t really give a response. To be fair, I kind of half knew what was going on but I just assumed he knew something we didn’t. In the end, we made it to Udaipur. I didn’t mind the journey that much to be honest, I’d rather have sat in that car, on Indian roads than visit another fort. Lewis really struggled and came out of the car in a foul mood – what a rookie.

Our hostel, Bunkyard, was really nice with fantastic views of the lake. We were supposed to be in a dorm room but Lewis in his bad mood changed us to a private and I was definitely not complaining.

Udaipur

After the previous days’ disaster, we were really looking forward to our cooking class. It was taken by this lovely lady called Shashi who’s story was as great as her cooking. She’d had a very hard life but has come out on top and is now the number 1 cooking school in Udaipur.

Sashi’s cooking class

We made so much food I thought I was going to explode. The day started with chai and then how to make pakora, a number of different chutneys, 3 different types of curry and about 5 different types of chapati and naan – who knew you didn’t need a tandoor oven to make naan! The whole thing was excellent and I would 100% recommend doing this class if you’re ever in Udaipur. We did the class with another English couple and after it, we all went to the Monsoon Festival. It was basically a huge school fair around the perimeter of the lake and was mostly for children – with loads of toy shops and rides, but it was still nice to see. It was ‘women’s day’, so no men were allowed (obviously foreigners were fine) so the whole place was a sea of vibrantly coloured saris.

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Monsson Festival

We were the only white people there so we got a lot of attention (and selfies). We ended up getting coerced into going on this manual swing/merry-go-round thing that was definitely meant for the under-10s but the locals thought it was hilarious, especially the kids, so it was worth it for 50p. I also think we gave that guy a good amount of business because while we were on it quite the crowd had gathered around with all the children asking their parents if they could have a go.

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He loves it

Once we’d got back, Lewis and I went to the museum to see the dance and puppet show they put on each evening. You have to queue for about an hour before to get tickets and a good seat but it’s worth it, the tickets are only £1.50 and the show only lasts an hour. The show included some traditional Rajasthani dancing – a lot of woman balancing things on their heads while twirling at great speeds, it was impressive. Even the puppet show was brilliant, the guy really knew what he was doing and I found myself laughing out loud with the children when he got the puppet to bounce its own head from hand to hand to bum to hand. We were having such a nice time in Udaipur that we decided to stay an extra night.

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Look at her go

We had a slow morning for once with breakfast on the rooftop (Indian’s love rooftops, well to be fair it’s not like you could sit out on the street I guess) and then went for a walk around the lake to get closer to the Jag Mandir palace which is in the centre of it. Following that, I convinced Lewis to do a silk painting class – I was such an Art Attack kid and I love arts & crafts. I painted an elephant and Lewis a peacock and I was seriously impressed with what we produced. We had a little bit of help from the guy – drawing an elephant is seriously difficult but all in all, I’m definitely claiming it as a Bradie original. We spent the evening playing games with a couple G&Ts in the hostel and got ready for the journey to Jodhpur the next morning.

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So proud

Jodhpur

The drive to Jodhpur was uneventful (thankfully) and when we pulled up the hostel, HosteLaVie, the first thing we noticed was the heat. It was about 38°C. We checked in and had a genuinely good coffee in their cafe! After that, we went to the main clocktower and markets. We definitely bought more than we needed – scarfs, shirts & spices but oh well!

Market stall & the clock tower

Once we’d walked around we were hot and hungry so went to the Haveli Hotel‘s restaurant, Panorama 360. We were treating ourselves to a real restaurant for once, it had a brilliant view of the fort and the tandoori chicken was delicious.

Happy Bunnies

The next morning we made our way to the fort. It was unbelievably hot and obviously, I moaned the whole way up – why couldn’t we have just got a tuk-tuk!? Anyways, it wasn’t nearly as bad as Bundi so I guess I’ll just count my blessings.

The Mehrangarh fort was the best fort we visited in the whole of India. It’s expensive (around £6) but includes an audio tour (knowledge is power) and is definitely worth it. The fort is also actually set up for tourists, with a pre-planned flow of where to go and what to see instead of wondering endlessly through corridors and rooms without any idea what they actually are.

Love me an audio tour

There is also a zip-line at the fort. It’s £20 but great fun and gives you fabulous views of the ‘Blue City’. Once we’d done all that I was so thirsty I couldn’t think about anything but water. My mouth was sand. We were so gross, tired and sweaty by the time we got back to the hostel that we just lay star-fished in our AC room for a couple of hours trying to regain some strength.

Zip-lining and The Blue City

Once our body temperatures had returned to a normal range we went for lunch at a small place called Cafe Royal by the clocktower. The family that owns this quaint cafe are so lovely. We had the ‘Clocktower Sandwich’ – it was simple but tasty and was exactly what we were looking for.

Jaisalmer

This was our last day with Manjeet! It had come around so quickly (even if the first few days seemed to go on forever). We arrived at our final city in Rajasthan just after lunchtime and said a not-so emotional goodbye to Manjeet (don’t think he even said thank you for the tip). Our first obstacle was finding the hostel, we walked up and down the road several times but we just couldn’t spot it! Eventually, some guy popped his head out and said this is Swan Hostel – well at least it used to be. We hadn’t been told that the hostel had recently moved location! We were in the desert and the heat was insufferable.

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Bye Manjeet!

When we eventually got to the actual hostel we were pleasantly surprised, our room was lovely and the AC was powerful. The only downside was that because they had so recently moved they were missing some key things – like fans on their rooftop. The rooftop might have been hot but the beers were cold.

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Beers & cards

For dinner, we went to Jaisal Treat, a 10-minute walk from the hostel. The food there was fabulous. I was craving chicken and the curry we had there was arguably one of the best we had.

The next morning was the day Lewis had been looking forward to since we’d booked our flights – the camel safari with an over-night stay in the desert. It was pushing 40°C and if I’m completely honest, I was dreading sitting on a camel for an hour and a half in the baking sun.

We got to the safari company ‘Trotter’s‘ office after lunch, put our bags in the lockers and jumped in a Jeep. It was so hot I could feel my eyeballs inside my skull. Our first stop was to an oasis. It wasn’t much to write home about looks-wise but I guess an actual oasis in the desert is a pretty cool thing to see. The second stop was to the ‘Empty-City‘, a village out in the desert that was abandoned overnight 200 years ago.

The final Jeep stop was to the camels themselves! It was an hour and a half through the desert to the ‘camp’. If you’ve ever ridden a camel you’ll understand that they are probably the most uncomfortable animals you can ever ride and my old woman hips were not agreeing with me!

Lewis had envisaged this romantic night of us sleeping out beneath the starts so the camp was, how should I put it… rustic. Personally, I would have gone for a bit more luxury, maybe a tent with a bed in it but this was his thing and I wasn’t complaining. What our camp consisted off was a mud-hut for storing the bed frames and a piece of tarpaulin on the sand.

When we arrived we were instructed to sit on the tarp and relax, beer in hand. This was genuinely nice for about 2 minutes before a sandstorm decided to hit us – including mini sand-tornadoes! So our relaxing beers turned into me sipping it under the scarf that was draped over my face. It then suddenly started to rain. We ran inside the hut to find a family with a baby already hiding in there from the sand and the rain – who brings a new-born baby to something like this!?

Eventually, the rain passed and we managed to sit outside and chat with the other campers for a bit. We couldn’t see the sunset (or the stars) because it was cloudy but I didn’t mind as long as it stayed dry. I spoke too soon.

This time it really started to rain, meaning all 12 guests were huddled inside this tiny hut. To put this into perspective, this is the first time it has rained in 3 years. Excuse me!? The rain lasted so long that we even had to eat dinner inside the hut. It was getting hotter and hotter inside there that Lewis and I decided that standing in the rain would be better. Luckily for us, we’d brought an umbrella! I mean, it was meant to keep the sun off us but there you go, who’d have thought you’d need an umbrella in the desert.

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Once it had finally slowed, they set up the beds outside and told us that if it started raining again they were just going to put some plastic over us, that didn’t sound sweaty at all. Even though it threatened to chuck it down several times in the night, the most we got was a drizzle – a blessing I suppose! Now, just because it didn’t rain doesn’t mean I got a good nights sleep. There were wild dogs running around our beds and barking, camels grunting, beetles flying and last but not least, a 7year old child screaming at 5am that he wanted a camel ride. Once that kid was up, so was I.

My bed was covered in sand. I had never been so sandy in my life, I could hear it crunching between my teeth! When I got up I shook all the sand off of it and declared it a ‘sand-free zone’ which Lewis was allowed nowhere near and subsequently found hilarious seeming as we were literally in the middle of the desert.

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The sunrise, however, was stunning – it made the whole sky a glorious pink which was in sharp contrast to the rolling golden dunes. We were given a simple breakfast and jumped on the camels for the ride home. Luckily, the ride back was considerably shorter than the ride there!

Once we were back in Jaisalmer all we wanted was a cold room and a shower. Luckily, Trotters have their own guest house which they let you use to shower and chill in for as long as you want, free of charge. That evening we boarded our flight to Mumbai with a change in Jaipur and actually landed a bit early. We got an Uber to the hostel, Backpacker Panda Colaba, which was an hour away (the Uber cost £6! – can you imagine if they were that cheap in the UK!?). The hostel was nice but expensive and our bed still had the plastic on the mattress which was weird! Luckily we were too tired to care and fell straight asleep.

 

India – Agra, Jaipur & Pushakr

Agra

We met our driver Manjeet in the morning and drove to Agra. We were very glad to be getting out of Delhi, safe to say it was our least favorite place in India. Manjeet was a very strange and quiet man, but we were determined to get a smile out of him!

I slept most of the way to Agra, much to Lewis’s annoyance. The first thing we did when we got there was go to the Agra Fort, it was okay but I just don’t really get forts I guess. Our hostel in Agra was called GoStops and was pretty nice all things considered and was in a very good location.

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There isn’t much to do in Agra apart from the Taj Mahal so we just went for a late lunch. We went to Trip Advisor’s number 1 restaurant in Agra, a place called Good Vibes. This place definitely didn’t deliver the ‘good vibes’ as advertised. I ordered the mix veg curry thinking it was a safe option. This was, hands-down, the biggest mistake I made on this trip. It was lukewarm and tasteless and it made me incredibly ill – which I found out the next day.

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I look happy here, but it didn’t last long

On said day, we got up at 5am to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise. Getting up early was so worth it, the Taj itself is beautiful but you also miss the crowds and can actually get a decent photo without millions of people in it! We got a tuk-tuk to the ticket office and then just walked straight in without any queues. It really is a stunning building, you notice that the moment you walk in. The whole thing is made of marble with exquisite detail on every wall, especially on the inside. While we were walking around inside of the building I started to feel a bit sick, I thought it was just the heat and lack of breakfast so passed it off as nothing.

Taj Mahal

By the time we got back to the hostel I was feeling way worse – I tried to force down some breakfast and we got into the car to head to Jaipur. The car journey was horrible, I actually thought I was going to die. I hadn’t felt this sick in years. I threw up at a rest stop which wasn’t my finest moment and then tried to sleep the rest of the way. Even though I was on death’s door,  Lewis made us stop to see the Chand Baori stepwell on the way (because it was in bloody Batman!?). Luckily it only takes 5 minutes to walk around it so if you can stop and see it do, as it’s quite impressive, but if you have to make a long trip to see it, it’s probably not worth it.

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Chand Baori Step Well

Jaipur

When we finally arrived, we checked into our hostel (Hoztel) and I went straight to sleep. My body must have been using every bit of energy to fight this thing because I couldn’t keep my eyes open! I slept the whole afternoon and then the whole night. Lewis went and socialized with people in the hostel but I was very happy in my AC room, alone.

I was feeling a little bit better the next day so we went sight-seeing. Our first stop was the Amber Fort – this is the main thing to see in Jaipur and is a big red and marble structure. From it, you can see the wall that marks the perimeter of the Pink City, India’s version of the Great Wall of China.

Amber Fort

After the fort we went to the Jal Mahal which is a palace built in the middle of a lake – this is the type of sight-seeing I like, you can see it, take a photo but you can’t physically go inside because you’d have to swim across.

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Jal Mahal

The final place we visited was the Hawa Mahal. This is a grand building with 953 windows, it was incredibly striking and was my favorite sight in Jaipur. It was built so Royal ladies could see everyday life on the streets without being seen. It had loads of small holes in the windows which they could see through and which encouraged the cool air to flow through.

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Pretty impressive isn’t it?

As it was raining, our driver took us to a local fabric shop They had some fantastic stuff in there and I would have bought a lot of stuff if I’d had the money or space. I did buy a tapestry for my new room though! As we all know, no uni room is complete without a tapestry on the wall posing as real wallpaper.

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Hand-made carpets

By lunchtime I was done with being outside and was feeling worse, I needed to go back to bed.  Luckily for me, the hostel had amazon prime on the TV in the room! I stayed in bed very happily and watched all three Men in Blacks while Lewis played beer pong on the rooftop.

I 1000000% blame that disgusting curry in Agra for being ill. I mean, everyone gets the runs in India, it’s a given, but vomiting? Really!?

Pushkar

I awoke a new woman. I was SO happy – no more cramps! We were in high spirits on the short drive to Pushkar. We got there before lunchtime and used the early afternoon to explore the markets and have a bite to eat at Baba’s rooftop cafe. I still didn’t have much of an appetite but managed to nibble on some hummus and bread.

I got roped into getting a henna by a woman who just grabbed my hand on the street – she had a baby on her back so I just gave in. She tried to charge me £10 for it! In the end, I gave her the equivalent of £2.50 which was too much anyways but I guess she needs it more than I do.

Had to get henna at least once anyway

Pushkar was much calmer than the other places we’d been to and was quickly becoming our favourite place. In the late afternoon, when it was a bit cooler, we walked to the base of the Ratnagiri hill which has the Brahmaji Temple at the top of it. You can walk up but for £1 you can get a cable car up – guess which one we chose.

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Hill & temple in the background ft. camel

The views of Pushkar and the lake from the top were phenomenal. We sat up there for a while just looking down on everything and enjoying the cool breeze.

Views from the top

On our way back down I started to feel sick again – not a great sign. While Lewis was in the shower getting ready for dinner I fell asleep and woke up feeling worse than ever. During the walk to dinner, I was just feeling worse and worse. As soon as we got to the restaurant I was violently sick and spent the whole meal running to and from the toilet. It was rough.

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At least someone was having a good time…

By the time we made it back to the hotel, I was in agony. I was so so ill. Once I’d stopped being sick I decided that sleep was my best option so headed to bed. This is when the power cut out. This hotel was awful by the way, one of Manjeet’s suggestions – it was his first and his last. I just lay there, in the heat and the dark praying sleep would come to me soon. I must have fallen asleep because I woke up at 4am with the sound of the power going off again. This illness was not done with me yet! Sitting in an Indian loo in the pitch black with only my phone torch for light and zero ventilation while chucking my guts up was not my favourite part of the trip, I was really starting to question why on earth we had come here in the first place. We could have been on some Mediterranean beach sipping cocktails and tanning, but no, we decided to do this instead. Eventually, the power came back on and I managed to get some sleep, how Lewis slept through my whole ordeal baffles me – at least one of us was having a good time!

We woke up early with the power off AGAIN and a whole group of pigeons having a mothers morning on our AC unit. I was so angry that I asked Lewis if he would go out and ‘wring their necks’, I think was the exact phrase I used, but he politely declined #FakeLove.

The only option was to get out of this horrible hotel and get some fresh air, at least I was finally feeling better, the worst of it was over. There was only one slight issue, we hadn’t even walked out of the hotel room door before we discovered the cause of all the power cuts – the whole place was completely flooded. I’m sorry but there was no way in hell I was walking through that dysentery-infested water just for some banana and toast so we were forced up to the hotel ‘restaurant’. Correct me if I’m wrong but I somehow don’t think that some fly-covered table and chairs in a grimy room constitute a restaurant but I guess everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I had something called a ‘lemon soda’ with my hot bread they were passing as toast and it was literally just lemon juice in a glass with a bottle of soda. I loved it, it was almost as bitter as me.

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I was not walking through that water

We hid in the room for as long as we could before getting cabin fever and forcing ourselves to brave the big, bad outside world. We paid an extortionate tuk-tuk to drive us through the worse of the flooding but it was worth it. Our destination was a small cafe called the Coffee Temple. This place was a little gem with a nice rooftop overlooking the lake. They had really good coffee according to Lewis (I still couldn’t stomach much).

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View of Pushkar Lake from the Coffee Temple

Pushkar is a very religious town with no alcohol and people come from all over to bathe in the holy lake/ghats. As a foreigner, it is basically impossible to get to the ghats without a million fake ‘priests’ trying to scam you. They try to give you flowers so you can go and be ‘blessed’ by the lake, but after you do they try and charge you up to $500 for it! If you refuse they say you’re disrespecting their culture and religion and say your whole family will be cursed – well jokes on you pal, my family are already cursed.

After coffee we went back to the Energy Cafe for dinner – I even managed to eat 2 whole pieces of pakora – plus side, I should be losing some weight right? We were told by the owner of the restaurant to head to the Sunset Cafe on the other side of the lake to watch, well, the sunset. We were not disappointed. This little place had outdoor seating directly facing the lake while the sun set behind it. Watching the sunset with a lemon soda in my hand and some traditional drumming in the background was dreamy. This was a much nicer side of Pushkar and we wish we’d found it sooner.

 

India – Delhi

India. What a country. This is not a place for the faint-hearted! Your senses are constantly overwhelmed, there are so many sights, smells and sounds to take in. Traveling India is hard, you’re not just worn out by the heat and humidity, but you’re also mentally exhausted – as lovely as the majority of people are, there are always the ones trying to scam you (tourists are extremely easy to spot!). I went with my boyfriend Lewis and even though I am a firm believer in girl power and ‘you don’t need no man’, my blonde hair and white skin got a lot of attention. It was nice to have a guy there, as a deterrent more than anything else. I didn’t have any issues and I doubt I would have if I’d been there with a group of girls but I don’t know if I’d like to travel there by myself – but that’s just me!

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Despite these negatives, it’s a place you have to visit at least once in your life. It’s like nowhere else in the world – so rich in culture and spirituality. Its vibrancy is breathtaking and the food is fantastic (as long as it’s made with filtered water!)

We only had just over 3 weeks in India, way too short of a time to go everywhere. We decided to focus on Rajasthan, it’s the largest state in India, located in the north west of the country. What drew us to this particular state was the multitude of cities and towns all drastically different – from the scorching deserts of Jaisalmer to the serenity of Pushkar. It also hosts one point in the ‘Golden Triangle‘ – the so-called ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur. The other two points are Delhi, the capital, and Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal. We also wanted a couple beach days at the end of our trip so went to Goa, with a stop off in Mumbai for a couple of days.

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Our route: Dehli – Agra -Jaipur – Pushkar – Bundi – Udaipur – Jodhpur -Jaisalmer – Mumbai – Goa

If we’d had longer, we would have gone to East to Varanasi to see the thousands of people cremated on the banks of the Ganges, North to Shimla to escape the heat and bask in its rich history, and south to the luscious greenery of Kerala.

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As you can see, the places we wanted to go are so far away from one another!

Now we can get to the juicy stuff – what we actually got up to!

Edinburgh to Delhi

In step with my recent traveling luck, we nearly missed our connection at Heathrow. Our flight from Edinburgh was so delayed that they had a guy rushing us between terminals to get us on the flight! Despite the tight connection, I knew we wouldn’t miss our flight – I’ve never missed a flight in my life (touch wood), and I was not about to start now.

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On the flight, I somehow ended up quite drunk. The air hostesses liked us for some reason (probably because we were a young British couple in a sea of Indian families) and just kept giving us more and more wine!

Delhi

When we arrived in Delhi I was actually a tiny bit nervous going through passport control. I may or may not have lied on my e-visa application. In my defense, it was on the advice of the visa helpline! Basically, I came to India to work in a hospital in Jodhpur when I was 17 and I thought I was going to be a doctor (lol). When you apply for the e-visa you have to state whether you’ve been to India before and give all the visa details which I obviously didn’t still have. Anyways, I got through absolutely fine. Tip: the Indian e-visa application is an absolute nightmare, give yourself 2 weeks to complete it so you can go away, have a bottle of wine, recover from the hangover, rest and complete it later on.

Naturally, our bags didn’t make it with the tight connection and after a long process of being directed to and fro from numerous airport staff we finally got our details down and we stepped out into the wall of water that is the 100% humidity of Delhi.

It was permanently overcast the entire time we were in Delhi, not that I’m complaining, I can only imagine the heat if there was actual sunshine! Our transfer to the hostel was this beat up truck with no AC and a mental driver who spoke no English. You’ve probably heard about Indian roads but you don’t really know until you experience them first hand. We’re talking dodging cows, people, bikes, tuk-tuks, let alone other cars! There are basically no rules, just beep when you’re behind another car to let them know you’re there and don’t hit anything. The car was roasting and even through the chaos, I slept the whole way there.

When our diver dropped us off at the hostel (Backpackers heaven @ Kuldeep Friends) I could have killed Lewis. It was down the dirtiest, smelliest and darkest lane I have ever been in my entire life. There was an open-air public toilet just at the side of this 2-meter wide lane and you had to walk through a cloud of flies to get to the hostel. I tried to just breathe through my mouth to limit the smell but you’d just get a mouthful of flies instead so it was a lose-lose situation.

The lanes to the hostel and then the corridor inside the hostel (not much better)

We walked into the hostel and were rushed into this room about 4 floors up without even a ‘hello’ first. We were dumped in this room consisting of a bunk bed and a fan which just pushed around the stifling air already in the room. It was safe to say that this wasn’t the room Lewis had booked, I could see the panic on his face rising, I was not happy. We had no bags, couldn’t shower, dirty hostel and a dirty room and no AC. He basically sprinted downstairs and managed to get us to change room – thank god. It wasn’t ready yet but I was so tired I passed out on the bunk bed. Once I’d woken up we headed out to get some essentials. I bought a sari to wear the next day – mistake. I definitely got ripped off and it was about a million times too small, it didn’t even fit the circumference of my arms! We also bought soap (washing your hair with soap is not fun by the way), and some pants – again, wearing pants bought off the streets of Delhi is not really something I ever thought I’d do in my life. At least they were comfy? Very elasticated and came in a number of bright colours. Lewis bought a Ganesha t-shirt and all the locals starting laughing at him – serves him right really.

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By the time we’d done all that it was 5pm and we were starting to get hungry. We went to a rooftop restaurant called Exotic cafe. The food was really great and it was nice to be able to sit high above the chaos and next to a fan. Once we’d eaten it was bedtime. Thankfully our new room had AC! I’ll admit when Lewis said he was packing a double sheet I laughed in his face, but I am SO SO glad he did, no bed we slept in looked particularly clean. I say that, but on our first night we didn’t have bags (and therefore the sheet) – we slept under our jumpers. The big blanket thing on the end of the bed was coming nowhere near me.

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Now, this is the first time I’ve ever traveled with Lewis and we learned a lot about each other on this trip, like the fact he is SO SLOW IN THE MORNINGS. Once Lewis had faffed about for an hour we ran to get some breakfast before a car was picking us up for a city tour of Delhi. We found this omelette stall on the side of the road. The guy mixed up some eggs with vegetables and spices and then threw it on a hot plate, he then proceeded to place two bits of bread on top of the eggs and then folded it up into an omelette sandwich thing. It was actually really tasty and only cost IDR 30 (around 30p).

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Thankfully, our car doing the city tour had AC because it was boiling. The first stop on our tour was to Old Delhi. When we arrived our driver instructed us to get on a Rickshaw which then took us to a (his pals) spice shop, we stood our ground and didn’t buy anything.

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I spend my life waiting for him as he chats to people

The rickshaw then took us to the Jama Masjid, the biggest mosque in Delhi – it can hold up to 2 million people!

Jama Masjid

They gave us some sexy outfits and once inside the Rickshaw man promptly took my phone off me and instructed us to stand in certain places for pictures – at least he got some good ones!

After Old Delhi, we went to the Red Fort but it was shut and we didn’t really feel like waiting in the heat for an hour and a half – we’d been told it’s basically the same as the one in Agra so we’d just see that one instead.

Next, we were taken to Gandi’s cremation site. It was basically a small black marble slab surrounded by a vast garden but still pretty spectacular to see.

Raj Ghat, Mahatma Gandhi’s cremation site

Next to his cremation site is an eternal flame. I didn’t even know Gandi was assassinated before visiting which is pretty poor from me. After that, we went to the India Gate – a memorial for all the Indians who gave their lives in WW1.

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India Gate

The last stop on our tour was to the Laxmi Narayan Temple. It was a beautiful place made of marble. Lewis was shocked to see all the swastikas all over it – queue the eye roll. (In case you didn’t know, Hitler took the symbol from the Hindus in the first place, before it became a symbol of the Nazi regime, it was a symbol of divinity and spirituality – still is.) Once we’d finished that temple we were definitely done for the day. Delhi is intense and I could only do it in short, sharp burst.

When we got back to the hostel our bags still hadn’t arrived but Raj from our hostel was on the case. Raj also helped us sort a car and our route through Rajasthan. I know a lot of you will think this is cheating but the price worked out pretty much the same and at the end of the day, why does backpacking have to mean doing everything the hard way!? India is hard enough without spending hours waiting in boiling train stations for delayed trains. Lewis really wanted to do the trains but he was shiny and new while I’ve been on the move for the past year! (also he’s just generally more patient than me). Once we’d finalised that our bags arrived! We were so happy to shower and be in clean clothes (I was still in the clothes I traveled in due to the sari disaster). A load of stuff was stolen out the top of my bag, nothing that couldn’t be replaced but was just annoying – back to the stalls I went to find shampoo and a hairbrush. They also took my sleeping bag liner which would have been really useful, thank god for the double sheet!

We decided to celebrate how clean we felt by going out for a few beers. We ended up in this dive called Gem bar. I was the only girl in there the whole night. It was a bit grimy but the beers were good (Kingfisher being the Indian beer of choice) so it suited us just fine.

As we ended our first full day in India there was one thing I had really noticed: EVERYONE stops you to take a selfie with you. I’m probably in about 200 million Indian’s facebooks by now but at least Lewis is still buzzing off the comparison he got to Pierce Brosnan (I don’t think I’d like being compared to a 65-year-old man but each to their own).

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Best Pals

Bali

Saying goodbye to Christie, Riss and Gabby was an emotional event – after spending every minute of every day with these girls for 5 months, not being able to see their pretty faces the whole time was upsetting! I even shed a couple tears… we all did, except Christie of course – the Ice Queen strikes again.

Seminyak

My feelings of sadness did a quick 180 when I saw Kate standing in Denpasar Airport in her grey trackies and her peroxide hair on the top of her head in a scrunchie. It was like we’d seen each other last week instead of 7 months ago, with an ‘alright mate?’ settling us back into familiarity.

Although I’ll admit Kate didn’t provide much assistance while we bartered with the taxi drivers standing in the arrivals hall, we got a good deal (even cheaper than the hostel offer!) and brought them down from 300k IDR to 175k.

We arrived at our hostel in Seminyak, Capsule, within half an hour and checked into our private room – I’m so done with dorms! As we’d arrived quite late and Kate had come a long way from London, once we were in bed we passed out.

On our first morning in Seminyak, we headed to the Coffee Library for a spot of breakfast – god was it nice to not cook in a hostel kitchen!

She loves a mango smoothie

After that, we had a bit of a wander and then met our school friend Sol, his girlfriend, his sister and her boyfriend at the famous Finn’s Beach Club in Canggu – now this is what I’m talking about. Beach clubs are probably one of my favourite things in the world, and in Bali, you don’t have to pay through the teeth for it! Being able to Lounge on comfy beds while day drinking and being waited on hand and foot doesn’t have many downsides.

Love me a beach club
Finn’s Beach Club

That evening, Kate and I had a few drinks and played some beer pong in the hostel before heading to the famous club ‘La Favela‘. It was probably the beer talking but this was (most likely) the coolest club I have ever been to. Think the love child of a rainforest and Dishoom. The old rustic style club had trees all the way through it and an open courtyard in the middle led onto a number of dancefloors.

The next morning we were a tiny bit hungover (and by tiny, I mean Kate was chunning) so we chilled by the hostel pool until Nia arrived around lunchtime. Once Nia had finally got to the hostel (yay!) we made our way to the beach. En route we stopped a local cute restaurant to eat and had some fantastic pork satay – pork being a Balinese delicacy – and fried rice.

YUM

After a long (and sweaty) walk, we finally made it to the beach via the beach club Ku De Ta. We tried to have a relaxing afternoon on the beach but it was extremely windy and we just ended up with sand in places I didn’t even know existed!

That evening we went for dinner at Corner House – the food was delightful and then we had an early night as we had a 5:30am wake up the next day to get the boat to Gili T.

Gili (T)rawangan

I have to admit, I was very glad we were not hungover for this journey. It involved a 2-hour mini-bus journey to the port and then a 2-hour ferry across – the boat was SO rocky and I was extremely grateful that I don’t get seasick. All were rewarded when we pulled up onto the stunning shore of Gili T.

Three peas in a pod

Our hostel, Broken Compass, was only a short walk from the beach and was just what we’d hoped for – a cute little place, with a small pool, a nice bar with great food and clean rooms. The max in a room is 3 which was an added bonus for us.

Such a nice hostel

We spent the afternoon at the beach, you can use the sun loungers next to the beach-front restaurants if you buy a drink. After Nia had fallen fast asleep, Kate and I had a very surreal experience. We were just on our sunloungers, chatting away, when we noticed a large group of Indonesians having a photo shoot on the beach. Before we knew what was happening, they had all surrounded us and were asking for pictures! We sat there for about 15 minutes while one by one they came up and had pictures with us… I hope it impressed their Facebook friends! Nia couldn’t believe she’d missed this whole thing happening, other people on the beach were definitely laughing at us.

Can’t believe she slept through the whole thing!

Before dinner, we joined a group from the hostel to help with a beach clean-up. The amount of rubbish, especially cigarette butts was disgusting – if you are smoking on the beach, PLEASE put your butts in the bin. Other people shouldn’t be searching through the sand to pick up your slobber covered cigarette and put it away for you.

Clean up your own butts so she doesn’t have to!

That night we went out with a whole group from the hostel – a lot of Bintang’s and Joss shots were involved and it was a fantastic night.

Bintang Bradie!
Joss is life

The next morning, we tanned by the pool before heading out on a boat to do some snorkelling. The snorkelling in Bali is fantastic, apparently so is the diving but I neither had the time or funds to do a dive. Our first stop was to a coral reef full a hundred of vibrant fish and marine life. The visibility was miles better than on the Great Barrier reef, I couldn’t really believe it.

Two beauties on a boat
How does she even make a snorkel look good!

The next stop was to ‘The Nest’, a man-made underwater sculpture designed to represent the bridge between land and marine life next to Gili Meno. It’s also circular to signify the circle of life. It was placed there in order to encourage a new reef to blossom, and in a few years, it should be a thriving ecosystem. It was a pretty spectacular thing to witness.

The Nest
It’s very difficult to take a selfie underwater, with a snorkel

The final snorkelling stop was to Turtle Point – I have never seen so many turtles in one place, and I have never definitely seen them so close! I swam next to one for a full 5 minutes before it dove to the depths. I loved every minute of it.

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How CUTE
I just love them 

Our trip ended with a quick stop on Gili Air, Gili T’s more relaxed and quieter cousin before heading out to sea to watch the sunset. All in all, it was a beautiful day.

Lush sunset

On our last full day on Gili T, we worked on our tans. In the evening, we cycled to the other side of the island to watch the sunset and take pictures on the famous sea-swings, they did not disappoint.

Put your hands in the air like you just don’t care
True love

The next day we had a very long trip to Ubud. Our boat was delayed by an hour and a half and the boat back is much longer because it has to stop at Lombok first. We finally got to Ubud just in time to check into our hostel, In Da Lodge, book an activity for the next morning and get some dinner.

In da Lodge

Ubud

We all wished we’d had longer in Ubud but when you’re only in Bali for just over a week it’s very hard to cram everything in! We started our morning early as we’d booked a downhill cycle.

The tour in a nutshell
The view from the top!

This involved them driving us up to the top of a mountain, we were given a quick breakfast of banana pancakes and then we jumped on some bikes. We cycled down through the countryside, rice paddies and a splattering of small local villages.

Rice Paddies
Cycling through the forest
Local village
More rice paddies

We were given a tour of a local Balinese house and a temple. It was a really fantastic way to see the beauty of Ubud and would highly recommend it! The tour finished with a simple lunch of satay and rice but it was perfect.

Our lunch spot
Best things come in threes’

After the cycle, we got dropped off at the Monkey Forest – a place that is inhabited by hundreds and hundreds of monkeys! Watching them play and groom each other was a fantastic experience and a must do when you’re in Ubud.

Oh, Hi Mr Monkey

We had dinner in Ubud and then got a taxi back to Seminyak that night. We actually ended getting some under-the-table deal with one of the hostel workers’ brother giving us a lift for a discounted price! Worked out well though.

Seminyak

It was sad that our last full day in Bali has already come around, it had felt like we’d just arrived! For our final day, we headed to the world famous beach club, Potato Head. You have to go about an hour before opening to secure a day bed but it worked out perfectly as they have a restaurant you can get breakfast at.

The famous Potato Head
No complaints from me
In LOVE
Loving life

We spent the whole day tanning, eating and drinking by the end we (well, I) was quite drunk! We also met this group of Irish lads who insisted on buying us cocktails and it would just have been rude to decline! Their spin on a margarita was to die for. We ended our last night in La Favella – such a great day.

Our flights home wasn’t until late evening. In the morning we went for a fantastic breakfast at Sisterfield’s and spent the rest of the day tanning.

This was delicious

In the afternoon we went for an early dinner at Motel Mexicola. This place is supposed to get wild in the evening so I wish we’d been able to come in the evening! We only ate from the bar menu but the food was delicious – we completely over-ordered. The margaritas left much to be desired but you probably shouldn’t be having anything with ice…

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We scrub up alright
Smiling now but sad it’s over

My flight home was at 9:45pm – I couldn’t really believe my whole trip was over, I was actually heading back to the UK. Okay, so I’m currently in India till the end of August but this is the end of an era. I can’t thank everyone who made this trip so memorable enough for giving me the best 6 months of my life. Bali (and Australia), I will be back.

Back to the ‘burgh

Your go-to guide for the East Coast of Australia

Planning on doing the East Coast? Well, that’s fabulous. Below is my advice on where to go and where to stay. You don’t need 6 weeks, in fact, I think 4 or 5 is perfect depending on if you’re a ‘get at it’ type of person or whether you’d rather take your time. It also depends on where you want to start and finish. We did 6 weeks from Sydney to Cairns, but if you want to do Melbourne as well you might need some extra time!

Full trip: 7 weeks from Melbourne to Cairns

Streamline trip: 5 weeks from Melbourne to Cairns (would recommend – we had a few days with nothing to do)

For hostels download Hostelworld and for campsites download WikiCamps – both on the app store and will save you!

Melbourne – 5 days/4 days

Hostels: There are so many in Melbourne. We stayed in the Nunnery in Fitzroy and it was nice. Stay in town for half of your time and St. Kilda the other half

Campsites: Not many near town. The Big4 Campsite has good reviews but I would suggest staying in a hostel or risking getting moved on in the night.

To do: National Gallery of Victoria, have a drink on the river, go out in the CBD, go to the beach in St. Kilda, go walking in the Grampians, Drive the Great Ocean Road, have dumplings in China Town, Walk around At. Albert Lake, Museum of Melbourne, have a drink at one of the many rooftop bars e.g. Naked for Satan, take the tram and go shopping on Brunswick street. There is so much fun stuff to do in Melbourne – read my two posts on the city to see what I got up to; Month One and Month Two.

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Sydney – 5 days/4 days

Hostels: Bounce Sydney in Surry Hills – Great location, very near the centre of town. Bondi Backpackers – great hostel near Bondi Beach.

Campsites: Any campsite will do really. All depends on where you want to be in the City.

To do: Sydney Harbour, Sydney Oprah House, get the Ferry to Watsons Bay and get fish and chips, get the ferry to Manly – explore and chill on the beach, do the Manly to Spit walk, Bondi Beach – chill and do the Coogee to Bondi walk, go to Glebe Markets on a Saturday, go to the zoo and walk around the Botanic Gardens.

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Newcastle – 1 day/skip

Hostels: Newcastle Beach YHA – closer to the beach, Backpackers Newcastle – closer to the centre of town

Campsites: Check WikiCamps or call hostels

To do: The Bogey hole, Newcastle beach, the docks/port & Blackbutt reserve

Coffs Harbour – 1 day/skip

Hostels: Only 3 hostels on Hostelworld, all look nice but just depends on where in town you want to be.

Campsites: Check WikiCamps or call hostels

To do: Beach

Byron Bay – 3 days/3 Days

Hostels: Arts Factory – for chilled stoner vibes, if that’s not your scene Byron has a lot of nicer hostels which are closer to town.

Campsites: Arts Factory – the only hostel that had a camper license. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy you’ll have to go to a campsite. Parking laws are super strict in Byron so don’t risk sleeping on the street, you will get a fine.

To do: Go to the beach, surf, shop, go for dinner & party.

Gold Coast – 2 Days in Coolangatta, 2 Days in Surfer’s Paradise/1 Day in each

Hostels: YHA Coolangatta, YHA Surfer’s

Campsites: Check WikiCamps or call hostels

To do: Go to the beach, surf & party (apparently!?)

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Brisbane – 3 days/2 days

Hostels: Brisbane Backpackers Resort – great location & really cheap! There is also a YHA

Campsites: Brisbane Backpackers Resort – the only hostel with a camper license.

To do: Go to the man-made beach called Streets Beach, Botanic Gardens, walk over their many bridges, get the ferry, go to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Mt. Coo-Tah lookout & party!

Noosa – 3 days

Hostels: Halse Lodge Guest House (YHA) & Noosa Backpackers Resort. These are the two we stayed in but there are loads of nice ones in Noosa.

Campsites: Halse Lodge Guest House (YHA) & Noosa Backpackers Resort both have camper licences.

To do: Beach, shop, eat, & drink. Go to the fairy pools and walk around the national park.

Rainbow Beach – 1 day

Hostels: Dingos Resort

Campsites: Dingos Resort

To do: See the rainbow sand, party at Dingos & go sea kayaking

Fraser Island – 3 days

Hostels: Dingos 4WD tag-a-long tour

Campsites: Dingos 4WD tag-a-long tour

To do: You don’t need to plan a thing, they do it all for you! See my ‘Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island’ post to read about all the places they take you.

Hervey Bay – 1 day/skip

Hostels: Check Hostelworld

Campsites: Scarness Caravan Park – really decently priced and right on the beachfront. Great for a quick stop off.

To do: Beach & chill

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Agnes Water/1770 – 1 day/skip

Hostels: Check Hostelworld

Campsites: Horizons Kangaroo Sanctuary

To do: Visit 1770 & go for a walk

Airlie Beach – 3 days

Hostels: Nomads/Base

Campsites: Nomads/Base

To do: Beach & party

Whitsundays – 3 days

Hostels: Ride to Paradise

Campsites: N/A

To do: They take you everywhere! See my ‘Airlie Beach and Whitsundays’ post for all the details.

Townsville – 1 day

Hostels: Rambutan

Campsites: Rambutan – we slept in the car park outside and it was fine (not exactly legal, however). Maybe check Wikicamps.

To do: Chill

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Magnetic Island – 2 days

Hostels: Base Magnetic Island

Campsites: You can’t take your camper across

To do: Hire a 4×4 and visit: The Forts, Radical Bay, Horseshoe Bay, the Butterfly Forest & West Point. Party in the evenings! See my ‘Townsville and Magnetic Island’ post for all the info you need.

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Mission Beach – 1 day/skip

Hostels: Jackaroo Treehouse Mission Beach in Bingle Bay & Mission Beach retreat in Mission Beach

Campsites: Bingle Bay Campground– can only find this on WikiCamps! Really cute and small campsite on the beachfront.

To do: Bicton Hill walk in Clump Mountain Nation Park & beach

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Daintree Rainforest – 1 day

Hostels: Daintree Crocodylus Village

Campsites: Safari Lodge

To do: Cape Tributional Beach lookout, Dubuji and the Marrdji Boardwalks

Port Douglas – 1 day

Hostels: Port Douglas Backpackers & Dougies Backpackers Resort

Campsites: Douiges Backpacker Resort

To do: Tan & chill. There is also a good bit of shopping & some nice restaurants.

Port Douglas
Port Douglas

Cairns – 3 days/2 days

Hostels: Gilligans to party, Calypso to chill

Campsites: We parked outside Calypso with no issues, if not, go to a campsite or get rid of the van!

To do: Dive or snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef and party at Giligans.

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So there you have it – all the tips I have accumulated during my 5 months in Australia. I have no doubt that I’ve probably missed something and everyone has different opinions but I had the absolute best time – I hope you do too!

If anyone has any questions, please drop me a message. Otherwise, as they say down-under ‘Too easy mate’.

Port Douglas and Cairns

Port Douglas

Port Douglas was a really nice town, like a bigger Noosa, but it was expensive. The shopping looked quite good but I wouldn’t know really! Luckily the weather was good and the campsite had a pool so we spent a couple days tanning. The only real issue with our time in Port Douglas was the mosquitoes. There were millions. Everywhere. On our first night, it was absolute torture, it was boiling hot so we had to open the windows but then obviously all the mosquitos came in! While trying to sleep you could hear them buzzing around your head and you just knew you were getting eaten alive. I woke up with 25 bites on my left foot. The next night we decided that the only way we were going to sleep is if we got so drunk that we passed out and well, we definitely gave it a good shot!

Port Douglas Port Douglas

Cairns

Woke up quite hungover and drove to Cairns. Checked two of us into Calypso Hostel, the big party hostel Gilligans was fully booked. Spent the whole day just watching Love Island and catching up on admin, it was actually exactly what we needed.

That evening we went out to the world famous Gillians to party. Little Gabby was so drunk by the time we got there that we had to get her a slice of Pizza first before! We had a little pres in Frans so that we could drink our own alcohol and play our own music. The club had shit tunes but the night was so good. We saw a load of people we’d met on previous tours which was really nice, Koko had also rejoined us (the boy from Brisbane).

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French Koko and his 4 English girls

The next morning we weren’t actually that hungover, we were just feeling really lazy. I think we were finally getting over the van life. Having a lazy day was perfect and we had to get to bed early as we had our dive the next day!

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We attempted a 1000 pieces puzzle, we failed.

We got up at 6:30am and headed to the boat. Christie and I had signed up for an intro dive, you only go 7m and it’s for half an hour, Riss and Gabby have already done their advanced Padi so they were doing a certified dive. I actually did my Open Water but I was only about 15 when I did it so I couldn’t remember a thing!

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Ready for our dive

The dive was really amazing, both Christie and I had a bit of a freak at the start. The water was so choppy and the feeling of going completely under water was actually quite scary! We both managed it though and I’m so glad, we saw a shark, a load of Nemos, heaps of Parrot Fish and a HUGE barracuda and the coral itself was stunning. Diving on the Great Barrier Reef, what an absolute treat.

Spot the Nemo!

We were all given a fantastic lunch – the food on the boat was so tasty. We were then taken to another spot where we all went snorkeling: we saw two turtles and a stingray!

The whole day was pretty unreal, even though it was raining at the start and we were all cold and wet, we had the absolute best day. It was such a nice way to end our trip, it was our last day together. We all went out for a girly meal that evening to a Thai restaurant called Khin Khao, it was a BYO which was perfect and the food was yum. We hadn’t been out for a meal in so long, since Byron Bay – so it was such a treat to not cook in a hostel or campsite kitchen.

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YUM

After dinner we made a quick trip to the Night Market, being in a market a bit drunk is a very funny experience. Riss was falling all over the place and trying to go for a Chinese massage at 10pm drunk!? It was a really nice end to the most amazing 6 weeks. I have never laughed as much as I did on this trip, everything was hysterical. Who knew 4 girls could survive in 1 van for 6 weeks? We did.

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Long live Fran’s fans

Next stop: Bali.

Mission Beach and Daintree Rainforest

Mission Beach

We only stopped at Mission Beach to break up the drive between Agnes Water and Daintree rainforest, we’d been told it was somewhere you can miss but we had the time so might as well!

We stayed at a very cute beach-front campsite in Bingle Bay, which we found on Wiki Camps – only $21/night for the whole van. They only had 8 spots and it was very intimate, the guy that runs it is so sweet.

To kill time we did the Bicton Hill walk in Clump Mountain Nation Park, it was uphill but it only took us 40 mins – online it said it would take 2 hours! Was really nice through the rainforest and as it was raining (again) we didn’t have much else to do.

View of Mission Beach from the top of the walk and Bingle Bay

The next morning we got up quite early and it was absolutely chucking it down. We didn’t even go to see Mission Beach itself, it would have looked terrible in the rain and we just wanted to get out of there.

Daintree Rainforest

When we arrived at Draintree, we were pretty excited. Fran got to go on her first ferry across Daintree River! We stayed at the Safari Lodge which was $10/person (we obviously snuck 2 people in). You get a $5 discount if you have the wiki camps.

Daintree rainforest is amazing – we really love it there. It really does feel like you’re going back in time, it’s over 150 million years old – it was around at the same time as the dinosaurs! It’s so different from the rest of the East Coast and I would highly recommend paying it a visit.

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How pre-historic are these leaves?

That evening we cooked a lovely meal and then got very drunk. We ended up drinking and playing cards with these two French boys. It wasn’t supposed to be a big night at all, Riss and Gabby go to bed and Christie and I were supposed to be heading back after 1 more glass of wine. However, the next thing we know we’re in the back of some bogans pick-up truck, the French guys were playing their guitar and singing and somehow I’d acquired some sort of maraca!? We were jamming in the back of the car and then suddenly the tire blew. Not just a small hole – the whole tire is ripped to shreds! There was only the metal wheel!

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Look at this wheel!

We finally get to this creek and it seems like it’s a staff party!? Why on earth on had we been asked to come and why on earth did we go!? It was a pretty surreal experience. After a couple of hours we finally we got a new tire and could go home, we were so so tired.

The next morning Christie and I woke up and it took us a moment to remember the night before and when we did I accidentally spat my water all over christie’s face!

Our plan for the day was to do some walks through the rainforest, and they did not disappoint. We did 3 short walks: First we went to the Cape Tributional Beach lookout – it was really stunning. The forest rolling into a beach is a very dramatic landscape.

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Cape Tribulation Beach

After that we did two walks in the forest; Dubuji and the Marrdji Boardwalks. The trees, leaves, and mangroves were SO nice. I’m normally not very good at appreciating rainforests but this was pretty cool.

The walks

The mangroves were really cool – look at all those roots!

Following the walks we went to the Daintree Ice-cream  Company – this place has a huge orchard and they grow loads of different fruits. With all their fresh fruit they make their own organic ice cream. It’s been voted one of the most scenic places for an ice cream! Once we were suitably full we drove down to Port Douglas.

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Yum, Yum!

Townsville and Magnetic Island

Townsville

After our final night in Airlie Beach, we got up and drove to Townsville. Townsville is quite a dead town and we just wanted to get there and sleep before our Magnetic Island tour the next day. We stayed at Rowes Bay campsite which was quite expensive (#37 for 2 people) but it was nice enough.

Magnetic Island

The next morning we got the ferry across to ‘Maggie‘ – why do Australian’s always shorten everything!? It was only 25 mins and we paid $2 on the other side to get a bus to Base Hostel. The hostel was pretty cool it was right on the beach front and had a big bar, pool and was covered in fairy lights.

On our first day, it was pretty cloudy and we didn’t have much to do so we just got really drunk & made some new friends!  The night was really fun, we did a load of fun games –  Gabby and I wanted to win so so badly but we didn’t.

The next day we hired a 4×4 and drove around the island and it was such a fantastic day.  The car was SO old and so hard to drive but also amazing at the same time – it was an open-top which is exactly what we wanted. We were also so lucky with the weather with this being the only sunny day in the whole week.

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Our lil’ beauty
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Picture perfect

First on our list of things to visit was the Forts. You walk up to it and it has 360 views of the whole island. The next stop was Radical Bay because it was supposed to be this ‘instagramable’ beach with a piano on it (I didn’t see any pianos – definitely missed something). Also, we were definitely not supposed to drive there… the roads were absolutely terrible! It was proper off-road. It was only once we got back into town that we noticed the map stuck to the car saying basically don’t drive here otherwise you’ll get fined… oops! Luckily we didn’t get caught.

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Great View from the top of the Forts

After Radical Bay was Horseshoe Bay where we stopped for lunch and had an ice cream. We also went to the ‘Butterfly Forest’ which is basically this forest just on the side of the road but if you tap the trees loads of butterflies start flying around you. It was pretty spectacular.

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Mint ice-cream is the one

We then went a picked up some beers and headed to West Point to watch the sunset. Thanks to Gabby for being designated driver. Our brilliant day was then followed by a fantastic night. We partied on the beach and had a bit of a boogie – all the tours we’ve been on have been fantastic! They’ve definitely been my favourite part of the trips.

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Sunset beers at West Point

Townsville

The next morning we woke up and I was actually dying. We got the ferry back to Townsville and then went to the hostel Rambutan. This hostel is SO nice. Dorms are only $24 but the place is amazing. Its got a lovely pool and outside area and a restaurant and bar. It’s more like a hotel than a hostel. Two of us bought rooms so that everyone could sneak in and use the facilities while the other two slept in Fran.

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Lush pool & set up

The whole day everyone was pretty hungover and unable to speak or think so we just chilled in the hostel all day and got a $5 dominos for dinner (well Riss had salad, as usual, I’m just not that strong). Because you really don’t need 6 weeks to do the East Coast we had a lot of time to kill, we ended up chilling the whole next day in Rabutan as well. We tanned and it was lovely. That evening we drove to a free campsite which was actually in a BP garage! It did the job and the next morning we started on the journey to Mission Beach – there was going to be a lot of driving in the next couple of days.